Witness - Under A Sun

Its amazing what a couple of years away and a bottle of prozac can do for you. In Witness' case its been a life saver and after a frankly appalling track record "Under A Sun" is their resurrection. Its not so much a change of heart, more a change in the execution and where country ballads once got lost and then subsequently filed away in the box marked "must try harder" they now soar over a bed of lush string arrangements and beautiful piano motifs.

"Did you hear about the man who wrote the story of his life on the back of his hand? He's got to start his life over again" - its the sort of line everyone wished they could write and is symbolic of the rebirth of Witness. It also recalls the days of Strangelove and Gene where melancholy was the order of the day and not just another option to file alongside Macy Gray or Toploader. Whether its Slipknot shouting about the fact that had to face a full day at school and its fucked up their life or Coldplay moaning because the last tea bags gone it seems that misery has just become another marketable option - an alternative to happy clappy dance music - and it all seems a little fake.

To use a well worn phrase Witness are for real and nowadays i'm sad to say is a rarity. While dance music and R&B continually surprises us with its innovation and energy its always the guitar bands that we take to our hearts and "Under A Sun" looks set to be this years slow-burning critics fave. "You Are All My Invention" perfectly sums the sound up taking the best parts of Elbow and Teenage Fanclub then mixing it into a stadium sized epic. Witness are both telling of the times yet strangely they've arrived here as the underdog - "Dividing Line", "Closing Up", "My Time Alone" and "Mines" are just singles waiting to be plucked from obscurity and if the timing was right could see them crossover like fellow Wigan boys the Verve did with Urban Hymns. Maybe while we were all looking for Starsailor we've missed the real stars of Northern Soul and I'd put money on it.

Alex McCann